Afloat from reality

After I had been sober again, from alcohol, for a year, I found a new way to unplug. For a month and a half, I only visited the planet Earth for brief moments; the rest of the time was spent in a haze I'd achieved from a combination of prescription and over-the-counter medicine.

The final time I indulged in my magical concoction, I almost checked out for good. I awoke in the psychiatric emergency room. My friend and my sister were with me, their faces gentle but serious. The toxicology report showed a lethal combo of chemicals. I hardly knew what was in the innocent pills I had been taking; I just knew it was making me numb, good. My doctor asked later, during our post-emergency visit, why I wanted to kill myself. I insisted I didn't. I'm all nerves, I told her, I just wanted a little break. That little break almost killed you, she said.

That's when I realized it wasn't the booze or the pills that I needed to quit. I had to quit checking out; I had to quit giving myself over to recklessness. Ultimately, I prefer to live. But life is complicated. Life means waking up every morning with the tight hand of anxiety opening and closing on my esophagus. For a while, I took Prozac to cope with that problem, and although it didn't give me the abandon that I was seeking, it left me chemically content and disconnected. My fretful thoughts floated in a balloon above me as I went around and marveled at the fact that I was so strong I never cried, or got too mad, or orgasmed, for that matter.

Life after quitting abandon wasn't easy. I decided to quit everything chemical, including Prozac, to stop numbing myself. I'm not condemning Prozac. It works for some people, and the drug helped keep the angst in check, but I think I need to be a little raw to stay alive. In a twisted way, I now live with the constant urge to lose myself and abandon everything, and that feeling makes me keep the recklessness under control. It makes me put on a bike helmet when I leave my house in the morning, put the headphones away, ride on the correct side of the street, pay attention to signs and cars around me. Pay attention, period. (Jowita Bydlowska, “How I stopped numbing out,” 29 July 2011)

"... put the headphones away..."

Great idea! At age 43, the CD player in my car broke; I never got it fixed, and now, three years later, I'll listen to a Youtube song when the urge strikes, but I no longer surround my life with racket.

No MP3 player, no radio. No TV. My soundtrack is the music that life provides. I would seriously recommend this to all who have frazzled nerves; it helps one to gather one's thoughts and to put all in perspective. (kaonashi)

@kaonashi on music

"At age 43, the CD player in my car broke; I never got it fixed, and now, three years later, I'll listen to a Youtube song when the urge strikes, but I no longer surround my life with racket."

All this paragraph shows is that you're old, not that you're enlightened about music. If you think of all music as "racket" then it sounds like you never had taste in music to begin with. Music represents multiple modes of thought: Some music is repetitive or mind-numbing, but other types of music can focus thought or even enhance it. There are times when I've been in a glum mood and the only remedy turned out to be music -- not caffeine, not exercise, not yoga, not drugs. Music was the whip that cracked me out of my stupor and got me on my feet, being productive and remembering why I wanted to move forward. Incidentally, what is "a YouTube song"? If you're listening to music on YouTube then your options are severely limited. Ever listen to a whole symphony on YouTube? A great jazz live performance in its entirety? No? Yeah, well, again, this explains why you dismiss all music as "racket" and apparently never had any taste to begin with.

"No MP3 player, no radio. No TV. My soundtrack is the music that life provides."

Why on earth would you lump music in with television? What television presents is a text. Music is not text unless it is lyrics-based. The best music is not lyrics-based or even programmatic -- or it does have lyrics but they can be ignored, or they work at a subconscious level as well as a direct level. Bottom line: If you're lumping TV and music together, you fundamentally misunderstand music. As for your statement about "life" being your "soundtrack," that's nice as a cloying sentiment, but horribly trite otherwise. Yes, the sounds of life itself are pleasurable and can function as music; that doesn't mean they obliterate the joys of music itself. Birds chirping, the hum of the road on a trip, the chatter and giggles of happy children, the sounds of a busy restaurant, the crickets in a pastoral landscape....yes, these are all terrific. But so is Sibelius. It's not an either/or proposition.

"I would seriously recommend this to all who have frazzled nerves; it helps one to gather one's thoughts and to put all in perspective."

Maybe you should make a list of all the crappy, white-trash music you listened to and then we'll avoid it. Since you didn't have any taste anyway, your recommendation is only meaningful to the extent that we can all agree that having bad taste does not enhance living. (rattigan glumphobo)

@rattigan glumphobo

The sad thing is that I think we're enabling a culture in which sane, critical people like yourself just don't get it. The only way in which you should be able to feel you can get away with such bland thoughts -- hers, not your own -- is if critical analysis, somehow for just being critical analysis, has confidently in the broad context become alien and unwelcome. We're being floated a lot of the kind of comments of the sort you're rightly critiquing here, and yet it's like your sharpest strike mostly works to better show up the kind of environment we now find ourselves within: these voices proceed, unchanged, and in greater aggression, as if they hadn't encountered any obstacle at all. I think we're being made to understand that for some basic but essential surrender some people are going to be able to say anything they want, the more absurdly childish and afloat from reality the better, and more than get away with it: the extent of this prize better demonstrates the fact that a new kind of judge has arrived on scene, with considerably different expectations than we've been used to.

I think you're the person I once recommended write some stuff for Open Salon. I did so because I thought OS was on the ascent (as it has proved to be), would float more and more of its "finest" to the front page of Salon, and because you, owing to your interesting, challenging thoughts and fine writing, would find yourself there, for your and our benefit. I see now that until you more come to cooperate in seeing the banal as brave and even miraculous -- which is actually possible for some critical people: witness some of the teetertottering we sometimes now see from Matt Seitz -- Salon isn't going to want much from you. Grounded critique isn't going to elevate you one bit.

I gather you heard from Andrew that Salon is about to go troll hunting. I'm not sure myself if with this effort it's just going to be the likes of the Duchess who can expect to have their beastial flanks spanked.

My mistake

I realize now you were referencing one of the poster's comments, not the article. Sorry for the sloppyness -- I had read the article earlier, as well as all the comments, and had readily blended kaonashi into Jowita.

Link: How I stopped numbing out (Salon)


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